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Category : Marketing and Platforms
In today’s publishing market, there are a handful of things I think every author needs to know about marketing. These are all things you can think through, and though none of this is going to be earth-shattering or terribly “new” to you (my guess is you’ve heard much of this before), sometimes we can think about choosing certain marketing strategies or ideas, then lose track of the bigger picture. Or we assume the publisher is going to take care of things, when in fact they’re busy worrying about the new 50 Shades novel they’ve just released, and they’re waiting for YOU to market your own book. So let me offer a big-picture look at marketing your book in today’s environment…First, you have to know yourself. What are your strengths at marketing? What do you do best? What is your message? How do you define your brand? What are the elements of marketing you love to do? The fact is, if you know your core competencies, know what you do well and what you’re comfortable with, you’re ahead of most authors who are just trying ideas they’ve heard from others. So think back through your history, and make a list of the areas where you were good and comfortable and successful with your marketing. What are the resources you have available to you? Next, make a list of the opportunities you know you’ll have — the people, places, organizations, media, and venues you know you’ll be able to count on.Second, you have to know your weaknesses. What are the typical problems you have with marketing? What are your struggles? What do you NOT enjoy? What are the roadblocks you face? (Hint: often these include lack of money, lack of time, and lack of expertise.) As you think through the problem areas, you’re trying to clarify both the strengths and the weaknesses, the resources and the roadblocks that are
There is nothing easy about book marketing. Nothing.
And yet if you spend any amount of time reading up on it, you’re led to believe otherwise. Posts and comments tend to make it sound like a walk in the park. Do this and that and that again and voila! You’re golden.
And then you try this and that and that again and … crickets.
It’s easy to feel as though everyone has marketing figured out, while you struggle to get a single follow, a single like, a single comment on your blog.
Because it’s so hard, we naturally come up with reasons as to why it’s not working for us … or why it is working for others. And we come up with excuses as to why we haven’t put together a strategy or why we haven’t called in some marketing favors.
These excuses and reasonings may make us feel better, but we’re ultimately hurting ourselves and our careers. A book that isn’t marketed certainly isn’t going to sell itself. But a book that is marketed has a fighting chance.
And a chance is all it takes.
5 BOOK MARKETING LIES as gleaned from the writers I’ve talked to over the years.
1. I don’t have a book, so I have nothing to market.
I hear this all the time from aspiring writers, and while I can see their point, the issue here is that they aren’t viewing the situation properly. If being an author is a career and your books are your business, then that makes readers your customers. The best way to connect with customers isn’t to throw marketing and sales pitches at them, saying buy, buy, BUY! Rather, it’s the relationship that counts in the long run. So if you’re an aspiring historical fiction author, hang out with the historical fiction readers! If you’re an aspiring romantic comedy writer, find where the lovers of all things chick
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. She used to post on this blog every Thursday, but then things got busy and she had to prioritize. So she took a break. Amanda is smart. Be like Amanda.
There’s one thing I’ve noticed about expectant moms these days (and no, this isn’t a post about pregnancy or motherhood)…Moms will spend weeks visiting various hospitals in their area, looking for the perfect match for their needs and expectations. They consider everything from doctor availability to space to freebies to distance from home to overall comfort level. They weigh each item against the other until a clear winner emerges.
It makes sense when you think about how important having a baby is.
But what if I told you that they do the same thing when purchasing a stroller or crib or carseat? What if I told you that moms these days tend to turn every babygear decision into an extensive list of pros and cons?
Agents and editors frequently mention the need for a professional webpage, website, or blog. But one of the most common mistakes authors (and people in general) make when venturing into a relationship with a web designer is that they don’t view their career as their baby. They fail to ask questions. They fail to vet those that they hire and truly understand what they’re signing up (and paying!) for.
So, before enlisting some Joe Schmoe designer to do your website, present him with these five questions:
- Can you show me examples of your previous work? Just like every author writes with a unique voice, every artist creates with a unique point of view. So before you ever consider hiring anyone to do design work for you, you must connect with their artwork. Ask to see samples (because what you see is oftentimes what you’ll get). If you like what you see, then you may have a
A friend wrote to say, “I’ve been told we should have a launch party when my book comes out. Is that a good idea? And what what makes a good launch party?”
I think a book launch party is a great idea — it allows an author to involve friends and acquaintances in the release of the book, is an easy way to garner some local media, and can help you kick off book sales. (Besides, it can be great for an author’s ego, if done right.) Let me offer a couple of suggestions to help make it a success…First and most important, you want to make sure you INVITE people. In other words, don’t sit around and hope people show — be proactive and make sure you get a house full. That means you need to find a big group who can be supportive, like your local writer’s group, you church congregation, the organizations you belong to, all your relatives, people at the clubs or sports you’ve joined, and all your fans in the region. Pick a venue you can fill up, since getting 40 people in a tiny bookstore makes it feel like a great party, but getting those same 40 people in a huge shopping mall gallery can feel empty. Determine a definite start and end time, and make sure everyone sees it’s a celebration. Again, you’re trying to get the word out, and get commitments from some folks to attend.Second, if you really want to make people show up, offer an incentive — books at a discount, or free chocolate, or wine and cheese (a few big boxes of wine don’t cost much and seem to bring people out of the woodwork). If you can’t do wine, ask a couple people to bring their latte machines and offer free lattes to everyone. Your only expense is the price of coffee. But have something that
When I decided to become a writer, I did it mostly because I liked silence. I liked the idea of sitting with my own thoughts and sculpting words in my preferred order.
But then I got published. And I realized that silence and control over my books wasn’t mine anymore. I was now expected to market them? I was expected to talk to others about my books and try to persuade them to exchange their hard earned cash for them? This was not what I signed up for. I didn’t think I could market. I didn’t think I’d be good at it.
Unfortunately, in this extremely competitive market, I don’t have a choice. I must engage with future readers, pitch my stories and talk about myself in a way that would make others want to read my books.
In the short time that I’ve been a published author, I’ve discovered four no-fail ways to easily transition me from sullen, reclusive, cat-hair covered wordsmith who likes silence to cheerful, enthusiastic, non-pushy salesperson who likes taking other people’s money. The best thing about these ways? They’re cheap! They’re not too hard! And I’ve almost come to the point that I can do them effortlessly! You can do them too!
- Have business cards. I designed my own cards and bought them through Moo.com. (Moo is the coolest place to get cards, IMHO!) So for $20 I have 200 cards that have a lot more than my contact information. My cards have said, “Author, Homeschooling Mother, Queen.” My cards are a manifestation of what I want to be, which gives me confidence. When I pass out a card, (that I always have on hand) people are impressed that I am prepared, that I am professional, and that I am willing to share who I am.
- Carry your books with you always. I put my most recent books in a ziplock bag, to
Someone recently sent in a question about websites and blogs… “Practically speaking, what is the real difference between a website and a blog, or between a blog and an online newsletter? And does an author need one of each?”
Practically speaking, there really isn’t any different between them – they are all simply information shared via digital means. But in common parlance, a website is most often a static site that introduces readers to a person or organization, and a blog is an active commentary about topics of interest to the writer(s).
Think about it this way: a blog provides more commentary than a website, and is updated regularly, whereas a website often presents some basic information that tends to remain the same for a long time. For that reason, we generally see websites as one-way communication, whereas a blog is more interactive and has multiple communication pathways. Media commentator Jeff Korhan has said that a website is a digital storefront, and a blog is a digital magazine — an image I’ve long found helpful.
A newsletter is similar to a blog, but often is used as a device that is sent out (rather than waiting for people to come visit), and shares information about upcoming events of interest to the regular members or readers of the newsletter. I once heard a speaker say that a newsletter is a “push” device (because you push it into people’s email boxes to get noticed) while a blog is a “pull” device (because you offer writing and ideas that pulls people in).
Does a writer need all of these? Well… no. There’s no “one right method” for every writer. But I think most writers these days have some sort of website, so that new or potential readers can go and research them. For whatever reason, readers enjoy seeing photos of the writer, reading a bio, hearing him or her say a few
For today’s “Top Ten” list, we present The Top TEN Things NOT to do on Social Media when it comes to Marketing your book:
- Tweet: Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book NOW. #buymybook #buyitnow #buyitordie It always amazes me how much you can threat a person in 140 characters or less. People generally don’t respond well to threats. It’s just a fact.
- Twitter Party etiquette: Don’t show up at someone else’s Twitter party and start throwing in links to your book on Amazon, hashtag: #justincaseyouwantedtoBUYmyBOOK — That’s the equivalent of wearing your wedding dress to someone else’s wedding. Hello?
- Facebook Book Cover Tag: This is when authors gets so excited about their new book, that they tag everyone they know on the cover pic of their book. Which makes their cover show up on all their friends’ Facebook pages. Don’t. Do. It. Not if you want you keep your friends, anyway.
- Facebook Private Message each of your 3001 friends: Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy it NOW! That’s spam and you risk being kicked off Facebook. Then you’ll have 0 friends. Don’t do it. Twitter messaging is similar. Don’t PM all your followers. There’s nothing “private” or personal about a copy/pasted message.
- Instagram photos of your book over and over and over again. From different angles with hashtags that run so long, one could sprain a finger from scrolling. No one shops on Instagram. You can’t click on links (outside your tag under your profile name.) Keep it fun. Keep it light. Invite, don’t swamp, readers and then walk away.
- Pinterest: Ummm… Does anyone even use Pinterest anymore? Just curious.
- Snapchat: This probably applies to Young Adult authors, but Snapchat is a fun way to share your story. Not your BUYmyBOOK story when each chapter starts out BuyMyBook, Buy it NOW. You’re much better off engaging your readers on SnapChat as you. Your real life
I’ve had a number of authors asking marketing questions lately…
I watched an interview on Book TV, and a publisher was asked if a book tour helps sell books. Her response: “Not necessarily.” Would you agree?
I would. There’s nothing magical about a book tour. In fact, if there isn’t some associated media, the author can show up for a tour event and have no readers present… and NOTHING will depress an author more than having an empty room at what should be a party for their book. So no, a book tour doesn’t automatically help sell books. But it can be a fun and important strategy if tied to a push for local media involvement.
Since some authors desire to write a book and then sit back, are there businesses that will do the marketing for them?
Sure there are. Any good marketing or PR firm will take you on as a client and do your marketing for you, for a fee. And that can work for some authors. The upside? Someone else is doing the work, freeing you to write. The downside? It’s expensive, and the people you hire may or may not know how to best market your book. I generally remind people that nobody has as much as stake in a book as the author. Nobody knows the book better, nobody is as passionate about the message, and nobody will win as much as the author, should the book do well. So I think there’s a good reason for authors to be very involved in the marketing of their own work.
I just self published a book, and the company wanted $3900 (reduced to $3200) to send out press releases. I found an independent source willing to arrange blog tours and send out press releases for $1200. Are such options worth it? Or can an author do that for himself/herself?
Spending more than three grand on
We’ve had a bunch of questions come in on the topic of author platforms…
What is the magic platform number publishers are looking for?
In my view, there is not magical number. Every project has its own goals. But it might help to keep two things in mind… First, that publishers are on an economy of scale. So a large house might need to see an author platform of more than 100,000 names, but a small house might only need to see a platform of 30,000 names. Second, remember that the potential readership of your book will be influenced by your platform. A literary novel needs a much broader platform to succeed than, say, a book of quilting patterns, which will sell to a very specific audience.
Is a platform basically a list of who I can reach via personal appearances?
No – a platform is simply the number of people you can reach with your words, whether that is via speaking, personal appearances, your blog, articles or columns you write, organizations you belong to, television or radio time you have, etc. All of those are points of contact with potential readers. It’s why I like to say a platform is simply a number – you add up the audiences for all the ways in which you reach out, and that’s your platform.
Does the number of impressions I get with my online writing count as part of my platform? Does my Facebook and Twitter feed count?
Yes on both counts. If you reach people with your words, it’s part of your platform as a writer.
My Christian publisher told me that the number of books I can be expected to sell is directly related to my platform. Do you find that to be true? And if so, what number are they looking for?
I think there’s a lot of debate over how your platform relates to your sales. I
We’ve tried to tackle a bunch of questions quickly this month…
“I want to start a monthly fiction book club to bond members of my writing group. Do you have any suggestions? I thought about reading a book together, then critiquing it so members can learn how to write better. For example, how does a fiction writer work in a description of his characters, or how does the arc of the story change from beginning to end? Any suggestions?”
Yes. Give people plenty of time to read the book. Start with a book you know well and have studied, so that you can intelligently talk it through. Consider bringing in an outside editor or a high school or college writing teacher, who knows the book you’re talking about and uses it in his or her classroom. Choose novels that have clear strengths to them at the start, so that you don’t go too deep, too fast. If you’re reading a contemporary book, think about trying to bring the editor or even the author into your group via phone or Skype, to talk about the artistic choices they made. Let someone else lead the discussion sometime, since we all learn best when we have to teach the material.
“Do you know of any successful book clubs led by writers and what is the key to their clubs’ success?”
Sure – there are a lot of successful book clubs led by writers. I think some of the keys to success is to have a diverse group, rather than having it just be your close friends. Diversity will bring more life to the discussions. Figure out ahead of time what sort of group you want this to be. In other words, what is the atmosphere we want to have? Scholarly? Bonding? Social?
Pick a time and place, let the group select the books you’ll all be reading well in advance, and don’t